Hugo Fonseca, Head of Development at design and technology agency Rufus Leonard, explores how a composable approach to tech architecture can support a truly flexible business, and give brands the agility needed to navigate this quick-changing future.
The future of business is all about agility and flexibility. Modern organisations must evolve quickly to keep up with a market dominated by connected experiences, personalisation, and the digitisation of traditional business models. If you can’t adapt fast enough, you risk becoming extinct.
The modular setup of composable tech architecture enables a business to rearrange and re-focus depending on external or internal factors, like a shift in consumer behaviour, or a sudden change in supply chain. Think of the cloth manufacturers, fashion designers, and 3D printing companies that pivoted to producing face masks, ventilators, and hand sanitizer in 2020.
The end goal for this new type of company is a completely composable business – where people can support the shifting demands of the organisation by assembling, disassembling, and reassembling modular components (made up of both technology and people).
Composable organisations can make quick, reactive decisions that might only impact one area or component of the business, or indeed affect operations across the enterprise. How? By easily re-combining their capabilities.
But to achieve that, all lines of business must first be strategically empowered by technology. Traditional monolithic structures – in which components of the program are tightly interconnected, interdependent, and must all be rewritten if one element requires an update – don’t facilitate this.
Typically, organisations invest in technology to store and maintain specific single domain data – e.g. CRM, PIM, CMS, etc. Most often, those systems are built on old legacy technology, with data becoming locked into silos within systems of records. To innovate competitive, differentiated customer experiences, one must embark on the time-consuming and often very costly venture of continually building a new experience from the ground up.
Microservices are better, and provide greater flexibility, but they often come with more complexity. Your teams may find themselves shouldered with the responsibility of solving problems that could be solved with modern SaaS, instead of focusing on bringing fresh experiences to market.
The solution: a composable architecture made up of packaged business capabilities that expose APIs.
With this, you can bring your network operating system, hardware, software, APIs, drivers into one place; managed by the same composable structure. Teams can repurpose capabilities and compose services into new, different applications, all in a fluid environment in which you can allocate resources as needed, to get the job done. And you can add capacity freely, then repeat the process over and over – securely, without human error – allowing you to respond to shifting marketing demands quickly and competitively.
What Does Composable Tech Architecture Look Like?
It helps if we break down digital experiences into three ‘layers’:
1. The customer journey
2. Capabilities required to support it
3. The technology stack those capabilities are built on
Capabilities are exposed to customers via the experience layer at the top of the stack. In a monolithic platform this is all tightly coupled, usually with native extensions or integrated external applications. In a composable architecture, this coupling is looser, and capabilities often integrate at or near the experience layer.
In a composable approach, the tech stack is built on cloud services and capabilities – MACH – focusing on scalability and APIs.
- Microservices: Individual pieces of business functionality that are independently developed, deployed, and managed.
- API-first: Functionality is exposed through an API.
- Cloud-native SaaS: Software as a service that leverages the cloud, beyond storage and hosting, including elastic scaling and automatic updates.
- Headless: Front-end presentation (what the user sees) is decoupled from back-end logic (how it works), communicating via an API. The headless CMS becomes a repository that delivers content and assets to any platform or device, regardless of channel, programming language or framework.
A composable architecture combines your data through APIs and empowers your front-end developers to build applications with interchangeable blocks.
It’s not just about consistent online and offline experiences anymore. Consumers demand seamless and connected end-to-end journeys, across all touchpoints.
Head of Development, Rufus Leonard
How Do APIs Facilitate It All?
By sharing secure data across cloud services, business systems, and mobile applications to connect your businesses, vendors, partners etc., APIs make app integration efficient, cohesive and agile. As our cloud-native world continues its digital transformation, the need for connectivity will only increase, and APIs will help deliver it in no time.
By using APIs, you can:
- Make smart, quick decisions and deliver relevant new services adaptable to market changes
- Combine legacy and new technologies
- Access data across different sources and formats
- Reuse, recycle APIs themselves
In short, APIs are the glue that will allow your tech architects to coordinate and scale packaged business capabilities across a complex digital enterprise in an agile, composable way.
In the end composability comes down to one thing: commerciality. Your business could be completely agile, flexible, and future-proofed, and your teams freed up to ideate and build brand new, competitive experiences. Thus, driving profits.
It must be said that each business has their own level of digital maturity and should start with easily achievable goals that have clear business benefits:
- Create a roadmap to disassemble, or replace, your monolithic structure by adopting a gradual, modular approach using packaged business capabilities
- Develop a composable architecture to secure the future of your digital strategy
- Select delivery options that retain user control of presentation, therefore maintaining business agility and control
It’s not just about consistent online and offline experiences anymore. Consumers demand seamless and connected end-to-end journeys, across all touchpoints. Composable architecture lets businesses leverage packaged capabilities to deliver those new and exciting customer experiences, now and in the future. The result – agility, flexibility, and the ability to beat your competition.
According to Gartner, by 2023, organisations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.
The time is now.
ABOUT OUR GUEST WRITER
Head of Development, Rufus Leonard
Hugo is a respected and proven technical team leader with 12+ years of experience leading the development of sophisticated, highly reliable, scalable web and mobile applications. He is a passionate Technologist who currently works as Head of Development at award-winning agency, Rufus Leonard. He previously worked as a Tech Director at Huge, Critical Mass, Code & Theory, and AnalogFolk.